Soaring Productivity, Drop in New Benefits Claims Provide Silver Lining in the Dour Jobs Market
Productivity at U.S. businesses blew away forecasts in the third quarter and initial unemployment claims dropped to a 10-month low last week the Labor Department said Thursday. The reports raised hopes that the labor market may be starting to bottom.
The news sent the stock markets soaring as the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 204.05 points, or 2.08%%, to close at 10,006.19, while the Standard & Poor's 500 Index popped 20.13 points, or 1.92%, to close at 1,066.63 and the Nasdaq Composite Index gained 49.8 points, or 2.42%, to close at 2,105.32.
Business productivity rose a higher-than-expected 9.5%, its fastest pace in six years, as companies squeezed more output from fewer workers. A survey of analysts by Reuters had projected productivity, or output per hour per worker, to rise at a 6.4% rate in the third quarter.
China Fuming Over the Latest U.S. Trade Complaint
There has been a spate of trade tiffs over the past few months, but relations appeared to be on the mend after a high-level meeting between trade officials at the Chinese city of Hangzhou. Now, as President Obama prepares to make his first official trip to China, tempers are again flaring.
The United States, Europe, and Mexico have asked the World Trade Organization (WTO) to arrange a dispute settlement panel to investigate Chinese restrictions on exports of certain industrial metals. The WTO complaint claims that Chinese restrictions on exports such as bauxite and magnesium are driving up the prices of steel, aluminum, and chemical products.
"China's restrictions on raw materials continue to distort competition and increase global prices, making conditions for our companies even more difficult in this economic climate," said Catherine Ashton, the European Union's (EU) trade commissioner.
Beijing applies an export duty of as high as 15% on some of its materials. However, China's Ministry of Commerce contends that those duties are in place to protect the environment by increasing the cost of extraction. The ministry also disputed Ashton's claim that such taxes are making it harder for Western companies to emerge from the recession.
Gold to Continue its Record Run as Central Banks Stock Up
Gold prices soared to another fresh record yesterday (Wednesday), driven mainly by speculation that central banks would continue to ramp up purchases of the precious metal.
Gold futures jumped as high as $11.30, or 1%, to $1,096.20 an ounce in morning trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX). And most analysts believe gold prices are bound to shoot even higher.
"Everything is pointing to the price of gold going higher," Mike Sander, an investment adviser at Seattle-based Sander Capital Advisors, wrote in an e-mailed report.
Investment News Briefs
Fed Keeps Rates, Language the Same; U.S. Services Slow, But Still Growing; ADP: Private Sector Job Losses at Slowest Pace Since July 2008; Microsoft Lays Off 800; Berkshire Could Lose AAA Rating; N.Y. Files Antitrust Suit Against Intel; Google's Lobbying Budget Up 50% in Q3; Better Garmin Results Can't Stop Stock Selloff
Where to Find Big Profits in a Post-Crash World
[Editor's Note: The essay that follows was adapted from "Fiscal Hangover," a brand-new global investing book written by Money Morning's Keith Fitz-Gerald. For more information - including details on how to get a $10 discount off of the cover price - please click here.] As I write this, everyone from Wall Street to Main Street [...]
Euro Leaders Outraged as GM Backs Out of Opel Deal
General Motors Co. (OTC: MTLQQ) stunned European government and labor leaders yesterday (Wednesday) when it backed out of a deal to sell a majority stake in its Opel and Vauxhall brands to car-parts supplier Magna International Inc. (NYSE: MGA).
GM may now be forced to spend billions to restructure the money-losing business itself as German and Russian leaders threatened to withdraw their governments' support in protest.
Disney Gets Nod for Shanghai Theme Park
It's been in the works for more than a decade, but The Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) finally got the approval it needed from China's government to build a theme park in Shanghai.
Disney's fourth park outside the United States will be the first on mainland China, giving the company a new avenue to market its popular properties in the restriction-laden Red Dragon. The park, to be located in the Pudong district between Shanghai's main international airport and its downtown area, will target China's growing middle class.
"Shanghai Disney would be a huge boom," Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group told Bloomberg News. "You have 80 million people within 3 hours' driving distance."
Investment News Briefs
Madoff's Accountant Pleads Guilty; Charles Schwab Launches First ETFs; J&J Lays Off 7,000; Sept. Factory Orders Beat Estimates; Cost-Cutting Boosts Viacom's Profit; iPhone Gets a Chilly Reception in China; October U.S. Auto Sales Grow; Chrysler Profitable At The End of 2011?
What Investors Should Look for in Today's Fed Statement
In its continuing efforts to nurture the fragile economic recovery, the U.S. Federal Reserve is widely expected to leave interest rates at record lows when it concludes its meeting today (Wednesday).
However, observers will be closely examining the details of the language in the statement of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting for hints as to when it plans to change monetary policy.
The overwhelming consensus is that the Fed will hold the federal funds rate steady at near-zero until the second half of next year. But that assumes the economic growth will stay in line with the Fed's current forecast – a weak recovery with subdued inflation and slow growth.
Four Reasons Why Hyperinflation Hasn't Hit the U.S. Economy…Yet
Everything we know about classic economic theory suggests the U.S. economy should be experiencing Zimbabwe-like hyperinflation right now, thanks to the nearly $2.2 trillion the U.S. Federal Reserve has pumped into the system.
But we're not…yet.
Classic economic theory says that money supply can be used to stimulate the economy and our central bankers seem to agree. That's why they've pumped more than $1 trillion dollars into the economy, engineered countless bailout bonanzas for zombie institutions, put Detroit on life support, and delivered a bunch of financial Band-Aids to the trauma ward – all in a desperate bid to make Americans feel better about the global financial crisis.